Western Carolina University’s School of Teaching and Learning has great working relationships with local school systems in instructional partnerships.
Now, thanks to virtual connections made during the pandemic, the elementary education program is reaching beyond the immediate geographic area to the Triangle for broader teaching experiences. WCU students observe teaching, interview grade school students and teach remotely.
Kelly Tracy, director of the School of Teaching and Learning, described the opportunity to work with the Wake County School System as a way to “visit” urban schools with diverse demographics.
“This also created a unique experience for our students to experience what it’s like to be a virtual teacher, something many would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience,” said Tracy. “It also helps fulfill a need for our students to work with master teachers known for their work using culturally responsive teaching practices, an important premise of the education program. Culturally responsive teachers see the assets that all of their students bring and work to be sure to create an inclusive environment in their classroom.”
The new partnership began when two faculty members in the School of Teaching and Learning, Melissa Faetz and Bob Perkins, working with the College of Education and Allied Professions’ Office of Field Experiences, reimaged the field experience for second semester elementary education and inclusive education students to be virtual. The coursework where this experience occurs has four co-requisite classes for students who are learning how to teach math, reading, writing and science.
“I absolutely wish they could be in a classroom side-by-side with students, but this unique experience has brought insight and opportunity for our students, who will now go into their in-person internship next semester with a deeper understanding of teaching,” Tracy said. “The opportunity to apply what they are learning is invaluable.”